Today featured the Canandaigua – High Tor club ride of 60 miles in length. The weather forecast wasn’t all that good but after Thursday’s movie (Ride Across The Sky), I was going to ride no matter what.
Even while I loaded the bicycle onto the bike rack, packed the bag with all options of cycling clothing, laid out all the food goodies on the kitchen island the evening before I was still late getting underway. Among others things because I forgot that I needed to gas up the Mini. So a few minutes before 9:30am I was really underway (after collecting the McDonald’s breakfast and filling up the Mini) – not a lot of time to get to Canandaigua. All goes well until reaching the toll gate at Victor and I-90 – because of road works a little traffic jam has developed. While the delay is not huge it is enough to make me late for the 10am start.
At the toll gates for the Canandaigua I-90 exit there are two lanes. I first choose the right one. There are four cars in each one so it was a toss up. However, my lane is not moving at all and the cars in the left lane swiftly move through their gate. So I check the mirrors and change lanes. When it’s my turn to hand over my 20 cents the attendant grins at me: “Oh so now my lane is good enough?”. Guess he’d seen me switch.
Getting to the starting point it is really starting to pour down. Bob Cooper, the ride leader, is there to sign riders in but he’s not riding himself – wise man! I sign the ride sheet through the window of his car. He tells me Jeff and Larry are the other two riders; they already started as I’m late getting here.
I wait out the pour down by making my final preparations – putting on cycling shoes, stuffing the back pockets with all the ride goodies, rain jacket – in the car and get underway when it is just raining.
The first part of the route goes down the east side of the lake so that’s easy enough. Things start to get more entertaining when turning off East Lake Road and getting to the climb up Newell Road. My cycling computer illustrates its sense of humor by recording a 1% incline. I am meanwhile in my lowest gear and struggling to keep my breathing in check. At the start of the climb the Garmin GPS records 970 ft of elevation and at the top 900 ft. Oh the joys of climbing up a near vertical wall in changing barometric circumstances!
The rain has stopped and a few miles further on the fast decline down West Avenue towards Naples the sun comes through. I pull on the brakes – and am reminded that new brake pads aren’t perhaps such a splurch as one might think – to take off the rain jacket. Then a right turn onto Parish Street where near the bridge I nod courtly at a couple of hunters in full camouflage regalia including their rifles. I admit I like my meat but their Saturday afternoon is just about killing for fun and spare me all the self-justifying arguments. Those just remind me of the Japanese and their excuse to hunt whales for scientific purposes. Grrr… okay, okay, back to the cycling.
At the end of Parish Street I resist to just go a little to the right and visit Monica’s Pie shop, instead left towards Naples. A few minutes later I come past the sign that always make me smile: “Welcome to Historic Naples!” As opposed to the one Italy founded, ohh, some 2800 years ago? Nevertheless, it’s a nice little town and the convenience store we always stop at makes a fair cup of coffee. Jeff and Larry are here. Jeff is adjusting some of his spokes. They came loose on the Newell climb. I go inside to get that cup of coffee and a peach pie. It looks like Jeff and Larry have been here a while. It may be sunny now but we’re all still wet from earlier so I urge them to get going and not wait for me.
A couple of minutes later I push off as well. The route takes us up CR 53 and then left onto CR 21. I quite like that climb – one that I’m always able to warm up to after the stop and develop a nice pedaling tempo. Jeff and Larry turn onto Basset Road just ahead of me. I’m lucky because I was so steadily turning the pedals around on this climb that I would have missed this turn off if they hadn’t been in sight. Larry is riding a time trial bike and turning around a big, Ulrich-like, gear. That couldn’t have been easy on Newell and that’s not going to be easy on Sliter Road.
Jeff and I chat a little before I pedal on. The left turn on to Sliter Road arrives and I go almost straight from a 50×12 gear down to 34×26. This time the Garmin bike computer feels more cooperative and enthusiastically reports a 15% incline, then 17%, 21% and even 23%. While I admire the device’s desire to be part of the effort, 23% and even 21% is just not true. No way I turn around a 34×26 gear on that kind of incline. On Newell I had a hard time controlling my breathing. That goes better here but in the second half of the climb I grind to a halt and have to walk up the last 50 meters.
At the summit I get on the bike again, click in the pedals and look up. Oh, lovely, Vagabond Inn is here… This is where Rachel and I celebrated our last anniversary a year ago in August. I believe we both made our best efforts but I think we both knew in the backs of our minds that it was not going to last. One anecdote may illustrate the odds stacked against us. We had brought a bottle of our favorite champagne (Veuve Clicqout) which our host kindly put in the communal fridge to cool. When the evening came which we planned to spend sensually and romantically in the bathtub overlooking the valley it appeared that other guests had taken our nice champagne. So instead of toasting ourselves and sipping our favorite bubbly we did have the long necked glasses but with water in them…
Alright, back to the cycling. I turn right on Shay Road and start a windy, fast decent. A few times there are side gusts that attempt to throw me off the road but I’m not much bothered. On the other side of the valley it’s up Route 364 that the three of us came down on the way out. My legs are still hurting from Sliter and it takes some revelations and fiddling with the gear lever before I find a nice rhythm. The next climb, Bare Hill Road, goes easier.
Dark clouds start to gather above and ahead. They seems to be all talk and no play and so I cruise back to Canandaigua without needing to reach for the rain jacket again.
After loading the bike back on to the rack, changing into dry clothes I swing by Starbucks (Tall Vanilla Latte, please) at the far end of the parking lot before driving back to Rochester.